Monday, October 5, 2015

Country Capers and Old-timey Vapors: Flying Southwest for the Winter

Tee: Arizona, J. C. Penney's
Skirt: H&M
Shoes: Qupid, DSW
Bag: Nordstrom
Belt: Gifted
Sunglasses: Brigantine tee shirt shop

Top: Merona, Target
Skirt: Macy's
Boots: Too Lips, DSW
Bag: Bisou Bisou, J. C. Penney's
Jacket: Candie's, Kohl's
Sunglasses: Kohl's

Dress: Modcloth
Cami: Worthington, J. C. Penney's
Shoes: Guess, DSW
Bag: Marshalls
Sunglasses: Rampage, Boscov's

Contradictory to the title of this post, I'm not a big fan of flying.  But I would like to see the West.  I've never been unless you count a layover in Phoenix, which I do not, even if I do have the refrigerator magnet to prove it.  One thing I do like to do on an airplane is read, though.  It's as good a way as any to forget your troubles when you're helplessly airborne.  And, of course, when you're helplessly back on terra firma, too.

Speaking of reading, I got more than I bargained for at the dollar store when I picked up Peggy Webb's Elvis and the Grateful Dead recently. Now, about 90% of the dollar store books I've read are weird, and I always find myself wondering if I think this just because they landed at the dollar store, or because they are, in fact, a little bit off.  Weird or not, I could immediately tell that Webb's tale was one of the tribe of quirky cozy mysteries that I hold so dear.  It turned out to be about two crime-solving cousins from Mississippi, Callie and Lovie, and Callie's basset hound Elvis, a canine convinced he's the King reincarnated.  (Okay, so they're southern, not southwestern, which would be far more in keeping with the theme of this post.  But Lovie does wear cowboy boots, most often with peasant skirts.  And Callie, when pressed about her feelings for her not-quite-ex-husband, can be as prickly as our friend Mr. Cactus.)  Fueled by sweet tea and ire, the twosome sets out to find the killer of not one but three -- what else? -- Elvis impersonators.  Now, the mystery part isn't all that intriguing -- most cozies worth their sugar offer up a respectable-enough "wow!" or even "hey, I knew that," factor when all is said and done plot-wise.  But this one makes little more than a lackluster attempt to tie things up lickety-split in the whodunit department.  Nevertheless, considering that I'm no fan of hounds (Elvis included, even if it is blasphemy to say so below the Mason-Dixon line), it may come as a surprise that I rather enjoyed this outlandish adventure (or, on second thought, maybe it's not such a surprise, as I often end up enjoying books I profess to hate).  After all, I don't read this stuff for the crimes -- I read it for the colorful characters.  And they don't come much more rainbowed than a fast-and-loose foodie (that would be Lovie) and her baby-crazy cat lady of a cousin (Callie).  Even if Callie is a bit of a shoe snob.  She wears only designer and looks down on anyone who doesn't, so much so that a would-be black widow's culpability hinges, albeit presumably, upon her penchant for bargain basement kicks (kind of ironic, seeing as how I fished this book out of a bargain bin, but I digress).  As ever, the sartorially suspect are guilty of -- or at least suspected of being guilty of -- more than mere crimes of fashion.  But I was willing to overlook this character flaw in the name of fiction, remembering that snobs are people, too.  Which is just one more way, I guess, that books help make us better people.  

That having been said, happy trails to you . . . until we read again.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Bow Knows Prose

Top: Merona, Target
Skirt: Modcloth
Shoes: Payless
Bag: Target
Belt: Wet Seal
Sunglasses: The Tote Trove

Dress: Kohl's
Scarf (halter tie): Wet Seal
Shoes: a.n.a, J. C. Penney's
Bag: Candie's, Kohl's
Sunglasses: Michaels

Dress: J. C. Penney's
Jacket: Material Girl, Macy's
Shoes: Chinese Laundry, DSW
Bag: Nordstrom
Belt: Wet Seal
Sunglasses: The Tote Trove

There's no good reason to reference a 1980s pop icon and super athlete in the title of this post.  Just like there's no good reason to feature cherries when they've been replaced by apples, or to post beach pics when the wind is howling cartoon-style outside my window.  Except that it's catchy and quirky and neatly ties up the otherwise disparate elements of bow barrettes and celebrity fiction at work here this week.  

When I first heard about B.J. Novak's One More Thing, I, like most other people with a TV, thought, oh, Ryan from "The Office" wrote a book.  The fact that it was not a biography but a collection of short stories was intriguing.  And also kind of fitting.  After all, Novak not only starred in but wrote for "The Office."  Also, there was that episode in which a fedora-sporting Ryan wrote and recited some pretentious poetry.  Not that B.J. is Ryan, or that B. J. is pretentious.  Still, there are parallels.  But we'll get there.

The stark, spare style of the book's cover proclaims that it means business (unlike the cover of fellow "Office" writing alum Mindy Kaling's book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns, which was, by Mindy's own admission, "mostly pink"*), setting the stage for the unabashedly literary satire that smirks within.  Most of the selections are vignettes about life with a zingy punchline, some in flash fiction format at a single sentence.  Novak explores the kind of paradoxically casual yet take-on-the-world reflections that have been espoused by angry young men since the first four-letter word was etched on a cave wall.  Reading his book is like eating a bag of Sour Patch Kids -- tangy at first, but once you get passed the outside, kind of sweet.  With wry wit and a hint of cynicism, Novak delves into the usual hot-button issues of the economy, education, social networking, romance, and what happens when we die, adding his own funky twist.  Some protagonists are faceless everymen, whereas others are celebrities we know and love (or, in some cases, at least love to hate).  Because Novak isn't afraid to "go there," a trait he exploited to dramatic proportions as his Dunder Mifflin alter ego.  (I like to think that his writerly voice is one that both mocks and appreciates someone like Ryan, the latter albeit ironically.)  He makes you laugh and he makes you think, and his oddball stories are all over the map.  Some are punctuated with English class-style discussion questions, such as "Do you think Johnny Depp should have driven his motorcycle off the mountain highway to his death?  Why or why not?" (169); indeed, there are eight discussion questions, lighthearted yet probing, at the end of the book.  Still, there's a unifying thread woven amid the crazy, and that's (not to get all Declaration of Independence on you) the importance of freedom.  Many of the stories, however circuitously and irreverently, highlight the struggle of retaining one's own autonomy in an oh-so-often homogenizing world.

On that note, I'll leave you with this.  What would Neil Patrick Harris, John Grisham, and Justin Bieber have to say about their starring roles in these stories?  Extra credit: What do you think Michelle Pfeiffer thinks of Vance Joy's shout-out to her in his song "Riptide" and of Bruno Mars's same in "Uptown Funk", and are the two at all related?


*If you are not a regular reader and therefore unaccustomed to my Mindy references, then please see the above link to confirm that I say this not with criticism but with love.  As much as it pains me to point out my own attempt at humor, I'd rather be accused of subpar literary prowess than of being, to put it plainly, a meanie. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Hanging with Mr. Cooper: A Labor of Doves

Dress: J. C. Penney's
Cardigan: Gifted
Shoes: J. C. Penney's
Bag: Nine West, Boscov's
Belt: Marshalls
Sunglasses: Kohl's

Dress: J. C. Penney's
Shoes: Chinese Laundry, DSW
Bag: Princess Vera, Kohl's
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

Tee: Macy's
Tank: J. C. Penney's
Skirt: Macy's
Shoes: Christian Siriano for Payless
Bag: Glamour Damaged, Etsy
Belt: Izod, Marshalls
Sunglasses: Candie's, Kohl's

Dress: Modcloth
Shoes: Penny Loves Kenny, DSW
Bag: Princess Vera, Kohl's
Belt: Candie's, Kohl's
Sunglasses: Candie's, Kohl's

The husband and I were taking a walk last Saturday night, killing time until our crab cakes were ready, when some guy driving by in an SUV yelled, "I just saw Bradley Cooper in _______ (insert name of local supermarket chain)!"  Which was, of course, far better than most things yelled out of car windows.  The husband and I looked at each other.  I'm ashamed to admit that we considered making a beeline for said supermarket.  Never mind that I'd been there just hours before.  I was caught up in the excitement of it all, imagining what I would say.  I could ask him about the highly anticipated, yet still-unseen-by-me "Wet Hot American Summer" Netflix series hijinks.  Also, how he felt about Keegan-Michael Key wearing that Silver Linings Playbook-style trash bag on USA's "Playing House."  (The husband, ever the envelope pusher, wanted to bring up his villainous turn in Wedding Crashers.)  Yet as I mentioned, we were waiting for crab cakes.  We walked on.

But that didn't mean we stopped talking about it.  I had a hard time picturing Bradley trolling the aisles of our little store.  Not just because he'd been nominated for three Oscars.  But because of the cottage cheese-soft cucumbers and eat-at-your-own-risk chicken.  Most of the time I couldn't believe I shopped there let alone this (albeit affable) A-lister.  Heck knows that if I had a handler, I'd send him in for the cheese wheels and fruit snacks.  I guess that's where Bradley and I differ.

Still, it was refreshing that he was out and about in Brigantine sans posse.  Turns out he was here visiting his mom who, according to The Press of Atlantic City, has a house on the island (which makes sense, as she hails from Philly).  I thought it was nice that he was hanging with his mom and going about his business normally (celebrities, they're just like us!), so much so that I debated whether or not I should even write this. After all, it's not as if I saw him, otherwise engaged as I was with fried shellfish.

But a celebrity siting is a celebrity siting, even if experienced secondhand.  And this stretch of beach is as good a spot as any.

Ah, Brigantine.  In the summer it's crowded, in the winter it's isolated, and, from a renter's perspective, it's always just a little unreal, as transient as the strict Memorial Day-to-Labor Day operating hours of the corner Rita's.  But it's also magical, a seedling city in a quaint, small-town (sea)shell.  Sweet and savory treats are just a short walk away, and you never know who you'll run into.

The more I think about it, I'm glad I let Mr. Cooper sniff his chicken in peace.